2012/13 Spanish La Liga
Raphael Varane is a gifted and highly thought of French defender and in June 2011, Real Madrid made their move, signing the defender, who has represented France at Under-18 and U-21 level, on a six-year deal for an undisclosed fee reported to be around £9 million.
He began his footballing education at Hellemmes, whom he joined when just seven-years-old. Then, two years later, Lens swooped for his services. Varane quickly caught the eye, working his way through the club's ranks. Indeed, in the 2008-09 season he helped the side's youth team land the national U-16 league title. He was soon promoted to the U-19 squad, despite being 16 at the time, and was then offered his first professional contract in 2010.
An injury to regular first-team centre-back Alaeddine Yahia during a meeting with Marseille then presented Varane with a golden opportunity. And he took it with both hands. The stopper filled the void impressively, helping his team to a 2-0 victory.
Varane's chances thereafter were restricted, but, when called upon, he demonstrated his versatility. The youngster operated at times as a defensive midfielder and on occasion as a sweeper. He looked a footballer playing well beyond his years.
A number of Europe's top sides soon started monitoring Varane, sparking speculation over his future. Lens reacted by extending his contract in February 2011, tying him to the club until 2015. He went on to make a total of 20 appearances for Lens, and scored his first goal in a 1-1 draw with Caen.
Lens' move to prolong his stay with the club for the long-term proved in vain, however, as their relegation saw Europe's giants close in and he moved to Madrid.
Strengths: At 6' 3'', Varane boasts the right frame to be a commanding defender. The stopper is swift across the turf while he is physically strong. His versatility is a significant string to his bow, too.
Weaknesses: Inexperience, but this will come. The pressures of playing for Real compared to Lens are of course an entirely different kettle of fish.
Career high: Signing for Real Madrid must have been quite the moment for the Frenchman. "Every footballer dreams of playing for Real Madrid," he said.
Career low: Lens' relegation to Ligue 2 must have been felt by the youngster, following his nurturing at the club.
Style: A smart reader of the game despite his tender years and a powerful force to complement that mental strength.
Quotes: "He is a very promising player and was an obvious target for a club such as Real Madrid seeking talent. He is a player I like very much and in many ways resembles Laurent Blanc. I haven't seen many players like that." Zinedine Zidane on the new arrival.
Trivia: His parents hail from the Caribbean island of Martinique.
SPANISH PRIMERA DIVISIÓN